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REMEMBERING FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND AVIATION PIONEERS

TOURISM HAS LONG BEEN THE FOUNDATION OF THE FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND ECONOMY. IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE HOW WE’D SURVIVE WITHOUT THE REVENUE AND JOBS IT CREATES.

These days most of our visitors arrive by air. Our tourism industry owes its existence to aeroplanes and the people who pioneered aviation in FNQ. Their story is eloquently told in a recent addition to the Cairns Airport domestic terminal – the Aviation Pioneers display.

It looks back to the days when the airport site was a mangrove swamp, and its earliest use as a landing ground. It tells the stories of the people, the companies and the aircraft that made safe air travel in FNQ possible.

CLICK ON THE AUDIO PLAYER TO HEAR KEVIN BROWN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF NORTH QUEENSLAND AIRPORTS TALK ABOUT THE PIONEERS DISPLAY.

QANTAS WAITING ROOM CAIRNS AIRPORT 1945

One of FNQ’s pioneering aviation companies was Bush Pilots Airways, founded by the late Sir Robert Norman in 1951. Bushies grew from a small operation to be a significant airline that developed new approaches to tourism in the region.

Bushies closed down in 1987, but its former staff are still in regular contact a quarter of a century later. They’re gathering in Cairns tomorrow for a re-union at which tall tales and true will be told.

CLICK ON THE AUDIO PLAYER TO HEAR EX-BUSHIES PILOT LYLE COOKE TALK ABOUT HIS TIME FLYING WITH BPA.

FORMER BUSHIES LYLE COOK & LIONEL DYER AT THE AVIATION PIONEERS DISPLAY CAIRNS AIRPORT DOMESTIC TERMINAL

CLICK ON THE AUDIO PLAYER TO HEAR FORMER BPA JACK OF ALL TRADES LIONEL DYER TALK ABOUT THE AIRLINE AND THE RE-UNION.

THE F-27 FOKKER FRIENDSHIP IN BPA COLOURS CAIRNS AIRPORT

RON ENTSCH & BUSHIES CREW WITH A DC-3 CAIRNS 1970s

CAIRNS AIRPORT CONTROL TOWER 1957

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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Cairns Queensland, Cape York Peninsula, EFFINCUE, far north Queensland, tourism, transport & roads

 

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BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS — AN FNQ AVIATION & TOURISM PIONEER

BUSHIES DC-3 BEING TAKEN DOWN FROM THE PYLON AT CAIRNS AIRPORT

ONE OF THE CASUALTIES OF THE CAIRNS AIRPORT RE-DEVELOPMENT WAS THE OLD DC-3 THAT HAD STOOD ON A POLE OUTSIDE THE DOMESTIC TERMINAL SINCE THE 80s — VH-BPA.

THIS VENERABLE AIRCRAFT FLEW KING GEORGE VI AROUND THE MEDITERRANEAN DURING WW2, HAD BEEN A U-S MILITARY TRANSPORT, FLEW FOR QANTAS IN PNG, AND IT FLEW FOR FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND’S VERY OWN AIRLINE, BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS.

THE LATE SIR BOB NORMAN AND A SMALL GROUP OF INVESTORS ESTABLISHED BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS IN CAIRNS IN 1951, AT A TIME WHEN MOST PEOPLE HEADING FOR THE NORTH OF THE STATE TRAVELLED BY RAIL OR SHIP. CAIRNS & SURROUNDS WERE A LONG WAY FROM ANYWHERE, AND THE LARGE SCALE TOURISM THAT SUSTAINS THE REGION TODAY WAS UNIMAGINABLE BACK THEN.

BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS OPENED UP MUCH NEEDED AIR LINKS BETWEEN CAIRNS & THE SMALL COMMUNITIES OF FNQ, KEEPING THEM SUPPLIED WHEN THE WET SEASON CUT THE ROADS. AND IT WAS REGULARLY CALLED ON TO SUPPORT THE AIR AMBULANCE SERVICE WITH EMERGENCY MEDICAL RETRIEVAL FLIGHTS. THESE SERVICES KEPT REMOTE COMMUNITIES & STATIONS VIABLE, AND ALLOWED FOR DEVELOPMENT & PROGRESS IN SOME VERY ISOLATED PLACES.

BUSHIES DC-3 VH-PWN CAIRNS 1973. THIS PLANE INSPIRED THE JOHN WILLIAMSON SONG PAPA WHISKEY NOVEMBER

BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS QUICKLY BECAME KNOWN AS “BUSHIES”. THE NAME HAS STUCK TO THIS DAY, AND PEOPLE STILL TELL STORIES OF ITS MANY ACHIEVEMENTS. BUSHIES PIONEERED REGIONAL AIR SERVICES AND TOURISM IN FNQ. BUSHIES SERVED THE STATE’S MOST ISOLATED PLACES, AND IT SAVED LIVES.

BUSHIES EVENTUALLY BECAME AIR QUEENSLAND, AND WAS TAKEN OVER BY TAA. IT CEASED FLYING IN 1988.

FORMER BUSHIES STAFF REMEMBER FEELING THEY WERE PART OF A BIG FAMILY, AND THEY CONTINUE TO STAY IN TOUCH. THERE’S A BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS RE-UNION PLANNED FOR APRIL 28 IN CAIRNS. IN 2008, I MADE A RADIO SERIES TRACING THE HISTORY OF BUSHIES BACK TO AN EXPERIENCE SIR BOB NORMAN HAD WHILE ON MILITARY SERVICE IN CANADA DURING WORLD WAR TWO.

CLICK ON THE AUDIO PLAYER TO LISTEN TO THE STORY OF BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS. 

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A BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS DC-3 ONCE ON DISPLAY AT CAIRNS AIRPORT

 

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